Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Man of Steel Shield

I came across this blog post on Modern Ideas about the new shield for the movie Man of Steel. It's the author (Matt Kuhns, a graphic designer) working through some thoughts about what the term 'serious' means in the context of a movie about Superman. There are lots of good ideas there, and a very grounded analysis of why people need seriousness in a movie about an alien who comes to earth and dresses in tights so people won't know he's a journalist. Matt nicely articulates the tension between wanting to experience these stories as adults and yet wanting to distance ourselves from their silly nature.

The one thing I've noticed is that people are throwing the word 'serious' around a lot when it comes to superhero movies. Serious, not 'sincere.' I'll give that one some thought and maybe write what I think it means some time.

I've chosen not to read any of the news about the upcoming movie. I watched the preview for it, and I'll likely see the full trailer in front of The Hobbit part 1 when it comes out. Maybe I'll have something to say about it then. For now, I'll just say that I've always liked the epithet 'Man of Tomorrow' more than 'Man of Steel'.

Monday, November 26, 2012


I wrote my dissertation on Prometheus, specifically on the ways this Greek figure has been used in modern America. I finished a few years ago, so when the movie of that name came out earlier this year, I wasn't in a rush to see it. I watched it at home a few weeks ago.

I liked it. At first, I was a bit frustrated that so many things were left unexplained. After a few days, I began to like this more and more. I know that there's some plan for a sequel, but I won't get excited about that until it's released.

I find the idea behind the film compelling, with or without the ties to Alien. And by 'the idea', I'm referring to the ancient alien hypothesis--that a long time ago aliens came to earth and in some way either created humanity or at least tweaked life's evolutionary path toward us. It's part of the story of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and lurks in David Brin's Uplift Series. And not so long ago The 'History' Channel got a lot of mileage out of it. They started mainly from Erich Von Danniken's book The Chariots of the Gods, and the literature that sprouted in its wake. I wrote a bit about this in my article for Strange Horizons, Superman as Science Fiction.

Prometheus works pretty well as a set-up. I do hope the payoff is up to par. But what I liked about it most were the images and how they explored the themes of the plot. We've got a story about an expedition to the stars ostensibly undertaken to find our origins (and the twist that it's also about finding out how to live longer). It's about our birth as a species, and so it seems appropriate that the film's most potent image and most potent sequence reflect this. The sequence, the one most often praised and singled out, is the robotic c-section.

Yes, it's tough to watch, terrifying and electrifying. But think about it for a second. This is a movie about the relationship of a creator to its creation; it goes out of its way to point out that people not only create other people, but robots as well. Then, the robot David (Michael Fassbender) tries an experiment on a Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) by putting a drop of the black liquid in his drink (a strange analogy of insemination?), which results in a Shaw (Noomi Rapace) getting pregnant. Horrified, she gets a medical robot to remove the offspring from her body. Crazy stuff.

Then, the image: I think this was the most frequently used promotional image:

"Sometimes to create, one must first destroy."
David holding a hologram of the earth. It's interesting how this movie almost insists that light has weight. But most interesting is the fact that David, the robot who kinda sorta inseminated Shaw with the alien baby, has the whole world in his hands. And doesn't he say, at one point, "Doesn't everyone want their parents dead?"

Anyway, I'll close with one more image.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chapter 6

Over at, Steven Padnick wrote an essay called Superman vs. the Myth of Aristocracy. Not a bad little essay, one which can be summed up nicely with the passage

Thus, by action and by example, Superman embodies a populist ideal, that it doesn’t matter who one’s parents are, no one can impose their will on the world. And it doesn’t matter how powerful one is, it matters how one chooses to use that power. Superman is great because he believes that everyone is worthy of respect, and everyone is worthy of aid. Everyone has some power to help change the world, and everyone is in this together.

I'm reminded of David Brin's article in about the very same myth, though Brin is writing about Star Wars and the myth of the hero described by Joseph Campbell. He is very critical of the despotic myth. In Star Wars on Trial, Brin groups Superman in with the despots of myth. Padnick asserts that Superman is in a different category.

I actually write a lot about this in chapter 6 of the book that this blog supports, "Superman in Myth and Folklore." In fact, it's that very chapter that's giving me a lot of trouble. Stupid chapter 6.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

California Is a Place

I just want to keep this link handy. It's for a short documentary on Christopher Dennis, the man who dresses up in a Superman costume in Hollywood to pose for and with tourists--usually outside of the Chinese Theater, if I recall correctly from the previous, feature length documentary Confessions of a Superhero. This one came to me through The Atlantic.